Zion v. County of Orange, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mr. Steering successfully argued that although the police may have the right to terminate the threat that a person may pose to them, that it did not follow that the police also had a right to summarily execute a suspect once the suspect no longer appears to pose a threat to anyone. See, Zion v. County of Orange, No. 15-56705 (9th Cir. 2017). United States District Judge James V. Selna that he did not believe any of the deputy’s conduct constituted a constitutional violation. Judge Selna ruled That that Constitution did not prohibit a police officer from standing over an obviously incapacitated suspect that the deputy had just shot at nine times from 10 feet away, shooting him 9 more times, and them stomping his head three separate times until the suspect stopped breathing (See, Jerry L. Steering’s oral argument to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals of June 6, 2017).
The night before Connor Zion died he had a nightmare that shook him and scared his roommate. He drempt that he was shot to death by a police officer.Connor Zion had been experiencing multiple seizures and his seizure condition caused him to become psychotic. His roommate called his Mom in Seattle, who immediately drove to the airport and was with Connor in Laguna Niguel, California within six hours from the call from the roommate.
When him Mom showed up Connor Zion became extremely paranoid. He grabbed a kitchen knife and his mother and his roommate tried to take the knife from him; both of them being cut in the process. Connor then fled his Laguna Niguel condo and his mother called the police for help. Deputies Higgins and Lopez arrived at the scene of a call for service of a man with a knife.
While Deputy Lopez was exiting his patrol car the young man run out of the shadows at him with a knife and as Deputy Lopez fell backwards, he kept the young man back, but close enough to stab the deputy’s arms, which he did. Deputy Higgins arrived right behind Deputy Lopez, saw him getting stabbed and shot the young man nine times; causing him to fell to the sidewalk. Then, while standing over the now severely injured and helpless young man, Deputy Higgins shot another nine bullets in the young man. That wasn’t enough for Deputy Higgins. Higgins proceeded to stomp the young man’s head three times until the young man stop breathing.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Deputy Higgins had the right to terminate the threat, but not the person; making an important new pronouncement about the limits of police officers’ right to kill others. See, Zion v. County of Orange, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Case Number 15-56705 (November 1, 2017). See also, “Deputy can be sued for excessive force for shooting a suspect and then stomping on his head”, Orange County Register, , Los Angeles Times, November 1, 2017.
Sharp v. County of Orange, et al.; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Published Opinion) holding among other things that unlike a search warrant, an arrest warrant generally does not allow the officers executing it to detain others. This is the most important Fourth Amendment search and seizure pro-citizen case to come out of the Ninth Circuit in a long time. Prior to this case, police officers and agencies across the Western States would routinely detain others during the execution of arrest warrants and probation and parole searches. This case makes a great statement and a long needed one; that other than during the execution of a search warrant at a private residence, police officers may not routinely detain others present.
Sharp v. City of Garden Grove, Orange County Superior Court (2000). Mr. Steering obtained a $1,110,000.00 jury verdict against Garden Grove Police Department officers, along with a CHP officer and state parole agents, for the warrantless search of the body shop that was owned by the parolee’s father, and where the parolee worked when he wasn’t in prison. The parole department had denied GGPD Narcotics Bureau permission to do a “parole search” of the plaintiff father’s body shop, as they had no authority to do so.
Parole agents can’t do (or authorize others to do) warrantless “parole searches” of places where parolees are employed. Imagine a parolee getting a job as a mechanic at Pep Boys. Could state parole agents and police officers do a parole search of Pep Boys? Of Course Not. State parole knew this, and they told GGPD Narcotics the same. However, GGPD Narcotics decided to use the pretext of a parole search, to do a full blown search of Sharp Auto body.
After several failed parole test drug tests by the son / parolee, his Parole Agent was getting more anxious to violate the son / parolee’s parole. So, the geniuses at the GGPD, the CHP and state parole (both members of OCATT; Orange County Auto-Theft task force.) They stormed into the body shop with SWAT / raid type gear, rifles and pistols blazing, ran-up from behind Mr. Sharp and pointed a shotgun at him. Then the cuffed-him (still at gunpoint) and made him get down onto the cement floor of his shop, with his hands cuffed behind him. One might imagine that this might result in knee injury to a 59 year old man, and one would be right. However, Mr. Sharp treated his own condition with health food supplements (Glucosamine Chondroitin). The constables then ransacked the body shop, with Mr. Sharp still cuffed, lying on the floor of his shop, with the neighboring businesses wondering why their business neighbor, who they always knew as a kind and generous man, was being treated like some despicable sub-human type, and in such a degrading and humiliating manner.
In addition to first claiming the the officers warrantless invasion of the shop and the seizure of Mr. Sharp (something ultimately rejected by the court) the cops also claimed that the search was justified as a warrantless search for stolen vehicle parts pursuant to Cal. Veh. Code § 2805; a real stretch (body shops don’t call in VIN numbers on cars brought in for repair. They are also neither U.S. Customs, nor the police. They’re not buying the car; they’re just fixing it.)
The Orange County Superior Court jury awarded Mr. Sharp $1,010,000.00 (ten thousand dollars of which was for punitive damages against the most culpable parole agent.) They didn’t believe the police; probably because they lied through their teeth, and finally violated someone who was just like one of them; the Orange County jurors (i.e. white, businessman with a trade, married High School sweetheart, enlisted in United States Marines, no criminal record, wife blond and very nice.) The GGPD officer who lead the raid on the body shop is now a Captain at GGPD.
Butano v. County of Orange, et al.; U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana) (2013); $727,500.00 for false arrest and unreasonable force. After the neighbors called the Orange County Sheriff’s Department on Ms. Butano’s boyfriend for threatening the gardeners next door for making too much noise, the deputies arrested the boyfriend and proceeded to tackle and thump Nancy Butano for telling the deputies that she was on an important business call and that she would be with them (at her front door) in a minute. She was arrested for “resisting / delaying a peace officer”, her infant children were taken to juvenile hall, and she was required to post bail even though she was arrested for a book and release on citation misdemeanor. See, To Save Nancy Butano, Who Didn’t Call 911, Sheriff’s Deputies Attacked Her in Her Home, OC Weekly, May 31, 2012. See also, County pays $727,500 to settle civil rights lawsuit, Orange County Register, January 21, 2014.
In the course of that proceeding it was discovered that the Orange County Jail had an institutional and unconstitutional policy of requiring misdemeanor arrestees to post bail to be released from jail. United States District Judge Carmac J. Carney held that Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s policy of requiring resistance offense arrestees constituted a First Amendment – Free Speech violation as these resistance offenses are usually arrests for verbal protest of police orders or actions. In this case, Nancy Butano was arrested for the default crime that police officers in California arrest innocents who somehow challenge police actions or authority; Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1); resisting / obstructing / delaying peace officer; See, Cal. Penal Code Section 148(a)(1) – The Boot Of The Police State.
Baima v. County of Orange, et al; U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2003); obtained $208,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force. A deputy sheriff forgot to turn off his microphone and Deputy George Kluchonic and (now) Sgt. James Fouste tortured, falsely arrested and attempted to frame Cory Baima. Then a 19 year old man, Cory Baima’s grandmother had called the police on him for playing his video games too loudly. Sgt. Fouste authored a false police report to attempt to frame Mr. Baima, and is still a Sergeant with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. George Kluchonic was criminally prosecuted for soliciting the destruction of his patrol video system video recording and was forced to retire from the police profession.
In Jane Doe v. City of Irvine, et al., the City of Irvine paid Jane Doe $400,000.00 for her sexual battery by an Irvine Police Department police officer. “Jane Doe”(true name protected) was a dancer at Captain Cream’s; a former Lake Forest, California topless bar. Captain Cream’s was located close to the Irvine / Lake Forest border, and the officer would stalk dancer “Jane Doe” when she left work for the evening. He followed her from Captain Cream’s all the way to Laguna Canyon Road in Laguna Beach, California; a road that is very dark and without street lighting and well outside of the Irvine city limits. See, Illegally Park-ed, OC Weekly, February 8, 2007.
The officer stopped Jane Doe’s car and gave her a breath-alcohol test, that resulted in a reading of 0.06 % blood alcohol; 0.02% below the 0.08% per se limit in California. Notwithstanding Jane Doe being below the 0.08% per se limit the officer threatened Jane Doe with arrest for DUI if she didn’t perform a manual sexual act with him; something she was made to do.
When she had done the dirty act and was left alone by the officer, Jane Doe raced home and called “911” on her cellphone. She was given the Laguna Beach Police Department “911” dispatcher. She told the dispatcher that she was just sexually assaulted by an Irvine Police Department police officer in Laguna Beach on the Canyon Road. The dispatcher said that as the assault involved an Irvine Police Department police officer that Laguna Beach PD could not do anything for her and that she would have to call the Irvine Police Department about her sex assault claim and complain to them (that discussion was recorded).
The City of Irvine ended-up paying $400,000.00 to Jane Doe on that claim and the officer was criminally prosecuted, but acquitted. See, Ex-officer acquitted of assaulting exotic dancer, Los Angeles Tmes, February 3, 2007.
Mansfield v. City of Costa Mesa, United States District Court Case Number 8:05-cv-00133-CJC-RNB, (Santa Ana, Judge Carney). Mr. Steering had a civil rights case in 2004 with the Costa Mesa Police Department for the wrongful shooting of her two dogs in Mansfield v. City of Costa Mesa, U.S. Dist. Court, Central Dist. of Cal. (Santa Ana) (2006), $225,000.00 settlement for unreasonable shooting of family pit bull and for unlawful seizure of person. Two Costa Mesa Police Department police officers chased Mrs. Mansfield’s 15 year old son and his friends to her home because the youth were not wearing bicycle helmets. The officers were so zealous to warn the youths that they jumped over the backyard wall of the Mansfield home; finding their two Rottweilers in the backyard. When the dogs growled at the officer, he shot them; killing them. See, City pays $225,000 in dog’s death – Orange County Register, September 29, 2006 and Costa Mesa Pays Family Over Killing of Pit Bull by 2 Officers, Los Angeles Times, September 28, 2006.
Gomez v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. Dist. Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles) (2011) obtained $2,163,799.53 for unreasonable force on convicted jail inmate. Jason Gomez had been deprived of his pain medication by the Orange County Jail while serving a short probation violation commitment. When the jail then began to provide to him his pain medication, he grabbed and broke the arm of a nurse at the jail while she was finally providing Mr. Gomez’ medication. It was too late. The nurse jail nurse (with the now broken arm) had a husband who worked as a custodial deputy at the jail, and you can imagine what happened thereafter.
The jail personnel didn’t take too kindly to the arm breaking and decided to do a jail cell extraction.
Santos v. City of Garden Grove, et al. ,OC Weekly, September 30, 2009.Santos v. City of Garden Grove,
Several members of the Frank Santos family were brutalized and arrested at the birthday party for one of Frank and Gloria Santos’ daughters. Frank Santos’ brother-in-law’s truck was towed away from a closed shopping center parking lot around midnight.. When Mr. Santos’ brother-in-law noticed that his car was gone and saw a tow truck race away with his car, the brother-in-law called Garden Grove PD to see if someone had called in a tow of his vehicle. Frank Santos’ brother-in-law also happened to be a CHP officer who worked for the CHP auto-theft task force. He knew that car thieves often use tow trucks to make their taking of a vehicle to legitimate.
In response to that call, GGPD Officer Oomar Patel arrived at the scene. Frank Santos didn’t know that his brother-in-law had called the police, and when Officer Patel arrived at the scene Frank Santos asked him “Who the f__k called you”. That sent Officer Patel into a rage, sticking his nose close to Frank Santos’, backing him up against a brick wall. When Frank Santos attempted to diffuse the situation and walk away from Officer Patel., Patel tried to tackle Mr. Santos from behind and when he did his flying football tackle move on Mr. Santos (from behind), Mr. Santos simply bent down and Patel went flying over him, falling onto the street.
Patel then jumped up and pepper-sprayed several members of the Santos family. He also called for back up, saying that he was being attacked, that prompt a quick and very violent police response. Had it not been for the presence of the brother-in-law CHP Officer, the Santos might of lost their case, as most people just don’t believe that police officers really do act like that.
Norma Cortez v. City of Anaheim; Mr. Steering also obtained $300,000.00 from the City of Anaheim,
for the use of police tactics that placed the plaintiff in a position of danger; a danger that did happen (i.e. non-lethal bystander gunshot wound); Norma Cortez et al. v. City of Anaheim, et al.; United States District Court for the Central District of California.
Farahani v. City of Santa Ana; Mr. Steering obtained a $612,000.00 jury verdict against a Santa Ana Police Department officer for unreasonable force, for a single baton strike to a young man’s head. See also, City to Pay $292,500 to Man Who Says Officer Beat Him : Litigation: Attorneys reach settlement after city’s appeal of a federal jury award of more than $600,000, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 199., “Police Brutality False Arrest Case Results” pages for verdicts / settlements / judgments against other police agencies.) See also, City to Pay $292,500 to Man Who Says Officer Beat Him : Litigation: Attorneys reach settlement after city’s appeal of a federal jury award of more than $600,000, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 1991.
Celli v. County of Orange, et al; U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2009);
obtained $200,000.00 for false arrest / unreasonable force.
Richard “Danny” Page v. City of Tustin , et al., U.S. District Court (Santa Ana) (1992); $450,000.00 for false arrest and unreasonable force.
In Kieswetter, et al. v. City of Laguna Beach, et al., United States District Court (Santa Ana), three separate women who were arrested for DUI by Laguna Beach PD complained that the 20 year old young man in a full Laguna Beach Police Department police officer uniform had jumped into the back seat of the patrol car that they were being transported to jail and sexually molested them. See, An Unsettling Settlement in Laguna Harassment Case, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1992. Mr. Steering obtained a $92,500.00 settlement in that case.
Hands v. City of Laguna Beach, Orange County, California, Superior Court (1989), $137,500.00 settlement, for false arrest and excessive force. See, “Laguna City Manager Urges Settlement in Couple’s Arrest Suit”, Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1991.
Torrance v. County of Orange, et al., U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Santa Ana)(2010);See, Man stunned by deputies in his bedroom gets $380,000, Orange County Register, . The Laguna Beach Police Department got a bad tip on the man who hit and ran (with his fists) from a bar brewed brawl in the middle of the Pacific Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. The wine consumption of two otherwise law abiding groups of well-off locals got the best of them, and one of the men punched another in the cross-walk at Cress and Pacific Coast Highway.
This happened during a Laguna Beach Art Walk , something that takes place on the first Thursday of the month. Some do-gooder drunk lady saw the Laguna Beach Police Department detaining the group involved in the street fight, heard they were looking for a fleeing man and somehow had written down the license plate number of Skip Torrance’s car. She had seen his cursing after he had stubbed his toe on the street curb, saw thew blood on the foot (the nail) and saw Mr. Torrance get into his car and leave the scene quickly.
Laguna Beach PD called the Sheriff’s Department when they learned that Mr. Torrance’s car was registered to a location in Dana Point; a City that contracts with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for its police services.
The Deputy Sheriffs arrived at Mr. Torrance’s house. He was sleeping. They scaled a 7 foot brick wall, went into Mr. Torrance’s back yards, entered his rear sliding glass door that went into his bedroom, and literally pulled Mr. Torrance by his underpants to wake him up while he was asleep in bed. When Mr. Torrance awoke he saw two black silhouettes shining their flashlights at him. He jumped up from the bed, and was then tased, handcuffed taken outside for a line-up by the man who was punched in Laguna Beach. The punching victim told the the police that Mr. Torrance wasn’t the man who punched him, so the police arrested him for resisting arrest. Unbelievable.
Oliver v. City of Anaheim, U.S. District Court, Santa Ana; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2012; (plaintiff won case in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on their unlawful arrest claim; false arrest as matter of law.) Plaintiffs obtained $400,000.00 for four hour false arrest of father (and son), for father telling police that he didn’t know of his son hit a opossum with a shovel (which isn’t a crime anyway),so busted the father for violation of Cal. Penal Code 32 (i.e. “accessory to crime”, for not incriminating his son, for something that isn’t a crime. See,Oliver v. City of Anaheim; Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mr. Steering has also had many acquittals in Orange County Superior Court; especially in cases involving false arrests.
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